A Thermal Cycling Route for Processing Nano-grains in AISI 316L Stainless Steel for Improved Tensile Deformation Behaviour
The present work significantly improved the mechanical strength of AISI 316L stainless steel by producing nano-sized grains. Steel was subjected to cold rolling followed by repetitive thermal cycling to produce ultra-fine/ nano-sized grains. The optimum processing parameters including extent of cold deformation, annealing temperature for thermal cycling, soaking period during each thermal cycle, and number of thermal cycles were determined through a systematic step-by-step procedure. After conducting thermal cycling under optimum conditions, a significant amount of grain size reduction was achieved. The effect of nano-sized grains on tensile deformation behavior was analysed. High cold deformation resulted in increased amount of stored strain energy. The stored strain energy accelerated the re-crystallisation kinetics during the thermal cycling process. Every thermal cycle resulted in irregular dispersal of stored energy. This irregular dispersal of stored energy favoured recrystallisation rather than grain growth and led to refinement of grains, in the absence of strain induced martensite. Repetitive thermal cycling promoted grain refinement and resulted in very significant grain size reduction with resultant grain size in the range of 800–1200 nm as compared to initial size of 90–120 μm. The resultant microstructure improved tensile strength by
106.8 per cent, from 590 MPa to 1220 MPa.
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